C100 member Julie Stokes: Louisiana needs to catch up with pro-business states on sales tax

A “yes” vote on Constitutional Amendment 1 on the Nov. 13 ballot streamlines and simplifies Louisiana’s confusing sales tax system and will elevate Louisiana’s economy and job market.

Louisiana is one of only three states with a “decentralized” collection of sales taxes. In all but three states that charge sales tax, that tax is collected at the state level and then remitted to all of the individual counties. In Louisiana, not only is the state itself a collector, but each parish also has its own collecting authority. The presence of so many collectors creates a complex system of differing interpretations of rules, policies and procedures, and exposure to multiple sales tax audits in a single year.

In 2017, representatives from JC Penney’s national sales tax compliance department testified before Louisiana’s Sales Tax Streamlining & Modernization Commission that 21% of their entire department’s time was spent on Louisiana compliance. Considering that the company does business in 49 states, that statistic means that they work ten times harder to pay their taxes in Louisiana as they do in other states.

As a former member of the Legislature, I fought to repair our fractured system of sales tax, but never saw a possibility streamlining collection to a single collector. The fact that our Legislature, local government officials, the Louisiana Department of Revenue, and the many business interests with a vested interest in this process have all come together to put this on your ballot, is truly extraordinary. This is one of the finest moments of compromise and statesmanship in many years.

Constitutional Amendment 1 creates the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission, comprised of equal representation of local and state appointees, to act as the single collector for Louisiana. Any important actions carried out by that commission will require that six of the eight commissioners agree. The legislation plainly spells out that the monies it receives shall, at all times, remain the property of the respective taxing authorities.

Now it turns to the voters. It’s imperative to the future of our state that we transition our system of sales tax collection to be more compatible with the way business is done today. Many opposing forces have come together to give our state this opportunity.

JULIE STOKES

president, Ellevate Louisiana

Kenner

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